Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This is the time of year I wish I had a brain tumor

In '07, fire season came early & forecasters are predicting another big year for '09. From now until the first heavy rain (usually roundabout July), I will smell smoke. Most of it will be real.

I have heard that there is a particular part of the brain that responds to pressure (pressure as in the physical pressure of a growing tumor, not the other kind) by signaling the smell of smoke. People with this tumor walk around asking everyone "do you smell smoke" until they drop dead of said tumor. I realize this might be one of those soap opera diseases, but there are days I wish I had it.

That's right, I would rather just drop dead of a brain tumor than watch my home (or actually my animals) be consumed by fire. I am not good with fire. I was well into my 2os before I was comfortable lighting a paper match. You know the kind I mean, the matches that come in a flimsy matchbook & the cardboard is so cheap you worry they will flop around & light up your fingernails. Okay maybe I am the only one that worries about that.

The year after we moved here, two days after Christmas, our neighbor-over-the-back-fence had an electrical fire (the source being the unzoned trailer home I have previously mentioned). The flames took about fifteen minutes to sweep across his yard, consume our back fence & start moving towards our house. This was a slow moving fire. The fire department spent what I would describe as a ridiculous amount of time trying to put out the mobile home. They more or less ignored the creeping towards the property line until the row of pine trees went up like bottle rockets. The whooshing sound of twenty 'kerosene pines' popping & flaming at once got them to turn around. I remember the look on the senior fire-guy's face. He looked like he wished he was somewhere else. Every pasture for miles was ringed by a continuous chain of pine trees. & every farm had its own entrance from the road that may or may not be the street for which the lot has a street address.

Since that time we have put in a few gates. One of them links the back of our pasture with the back of W*****'s & D******'s; when this happens again, there will be another way to get firetrucks in & livestock out.

But on that day, the only reason we did not lose everything was D***** on one side & G*** on the other. They both worked tirelessly, brought their own buckets, their own hoses, shovels & rakes & spent the entire day watering down a large swath of grass about ten feet into our pasture. They both knew when to give up on the back line well before the fire crew. They have both put out more than one fire before (D****** on this very property when the grass grew long & then dried, touching the hotwire the then-current owner had put up to corral their stallion; G*** lost his childhood home to a fire, while he was still a child).

I remind myself how lucky we were to learn about fire that particular day. Now D****** is working out-of-state more than he is home & G*** has been dead almost two years. & I am more frightened than ever when I wonder if the person who best knows what to do when it happens again just might be me.


  1. I think anyone who has seen how fast an outdoor fire spreads can share your fear. We are in another drought year and the fear is always with us now.

  2. Slash pine are all over my yard. And those palm fronds They are amazingly fast to light. Thanks for the reminder to go clean that stuff up. Where are the fires? Usually, sadly, i can smell them all the way up Orlando area. When i can't smell them i know as we get a bit of ash in the air, when the wind blows just right.